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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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Suicides in India Durable Link to this BLOG
Suicides in India - Some Notes

Mahesh Shantaram, a blogger from India writes about his rules for euthanasia. I am leaning towards a stance for death with dignity (politically correct name for assisted suicide), but I find that someone else making up the rules of death (like tape recording the procedure ?!) very repulsive. Isn't self-determination the crux of this debate?

India perhaps has the longest history of assisted suicides. Described as Ichha-Marana or desired death, it is mentioned in ancient Indian epics such as Mahabharata. We have the cases of both men (Bhishma) and women (Madri) undergo desired deaths. The Sallekhana, Sati, and Johar systems were essentially suicide mechanisms in ancient (and not so ancient) India.

The Sallekhana was practiced by devout Jains by fasting and meditation, and the participants starving to death. The most famous person to undergo Sallekhana was the queen mother Machikabbe.

The Sati (a.k.a. Suttee) was the system in which a window committed suicide on the funeral pyre of her husband, believing in (or forced into) an eternal marriage.

The Johar occured when the women of a town preferred death to dishonor and committed suicide in large numbers after a war.

Attempt to Commit Suicide

Indian buses tend to be extremely crowded, and it is common to overload the buses. Once I was going to school like that and was arrested by the police (that's India for you; instead of improving the public transportation system, the government harasses the citizens.) I asked on what grounds the police were arresting us as we had been issued valid tickets by the government operated bus service. The inspector told us that we were being arrested for "Attempt to Commit Suicide"!!

It was then that I learnt that attempt to commit suicide was a crime in India. (For record, I wasn't attempting anything, except going to school. We were let go with a warning and a demand of a bribe, but that's not the point...)

Since the days of Gandhi, Fast-unto-death protests have become common in India, where the activist in an non-violent protest goes on an hunger strike till his/her demands are met. I wonder if those qualify as attempts to commit suicide. ;-- )

Indian Suicide Links

• The Sati (Suttee) System of Suicide
• Death by Demand in Indian Culture
• Sati or Not? --a thought proving (and perhaps disturbing) article by S.S. Kshatriy on

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Saturday, January 5, 2002
Last Modified: 1/24/2003
Tags: desitale

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